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Ronny F. Wade

What is gambling? Is it wrong? Can we actually prove from the Bible that it is a sin?  How could it possibly be wrong to bet a small sum on a horse race but all right to lose $1000.00 in the stock market? Can we justify gambling on the basis that revenues generated by it go for good causes such as education?  All the above questions have troubled many people, and they remain, demanding answers from people who strive to serve God.

Gambling is a problem of great proportions today. John R. Hill in his book Theft by Consent claims that “lotteries are the most-played form of legalized gambling in the U. S.”

In 1997 Americans wagered over 35 billion dollars on lotteries. That amounts to $135 for every man, woman, and child in our country. The amount gambled yearly in the US is estimated at more than 500 billion dollars.

We are told that at least 75% of all high school students have gambled. Such numbers make the practice appear respectable.

Seventy-two percent of Florida’s seniors calling a hotline for problem gamblers identify the lottery as the source of their problem.


“Gambling is the wagering of money or other valuables on the outcome of a game or other event” (Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia).

“Gambling is betting on the outcome of a future event.  Gamblers usually bet money or something else of value as a stake on the outcome they predict. When the outcome is settled, the winner collects the loser’s stakes” (World Book Encyclopedia, 1979).

From above definitions we can see that there are three elements involved in gambling:

  1. There is an uncertain event that is arbitrarily determined.
  1. There is a bet or wager that is deliberately chanced.
  1. There is a winner and a loser. The winner gains at the expense of the loser. Anytime these three elements are present, there is gambling.

On the other hand, gambling is not taking a risk. Life has risks at every turn. In fact life is full of risks.

Merely crossing the street has some risk. Driving a car, participating in a sports event, etc. all have risks.  However none of them are gambling. Why? Because taking a risk does not have the three elements we have already mentioned. Buying a single stock may be risky. If the business in which I invest does well, no one loses.  Furthermore there is no wager involved. Something of value is bought that may go up or down in value.

Buying insurance is not gambling. In this instance something of value is purchased i.e. financial protection. The buyer and the insurance company both stand to gain. The risk is not created by buying the policy.

Prizes such as winning a sweepstakes is not gambling. There is no risk created when one registers to win a prize. There is no bet or wager involved. The three elements are not present, hence no gambling.

Gambling is not determined by degree or size. It is a matter of what action is taken, and not the degree. A bet can involve 50 cents or $500 dollars. Gambler’s Anonymous define gambling for the compulsive gambler as “Any betting or wagering, for self or others, whether for money or not, no matter how slight or insignificant, where the outcome is uncertain or depends upon change or ‘skill’ constitutes gambling.”

This would include little things such as flipping for who would buy a cup of coffee. Gambling takes many forms. Some bet on horse races or dog races, others pay poker, roulette or slot machines, still others play the lottery.

Some might argue that since the Bible does not specifically mention or condemn gambling by name that there is nothing wrong with it.

The Bible does not always state the conclusion that we are to draw.

However God often gives us the evidence from which to draw that conclusion. An example of this is found in Luke 17:19-22. John sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, “Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?” Jesus did not answer with a specific “yes” or “no.” Instead, he worked miracles in their presence and told them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard.”

Based upon the evidence of His miracles it was evident that he was the Coming One. The same point can be made about gambling. There is no passage that says “thou shalt not gamble.”

However there are biblical principles that are violated in gambling.  Hence there is sufficient evidence given to prove gambling is wrong.


  1. Gambling is addictive.

The enslaving nature of gambling is seen in the necessity of such organizations as “Gambler’s Anonymous.”

The crimes bred by gambling suggests that it is an addiction.

From the Alabama Family Alliance, we have the following quote: “For many of these problem gamblers the source of their trouble is the lottery. Of the 40,000 calls to the Council on Compulsive Gambling national hotline in 1966, fully 52% were from adults addicted to playing the lottery.”

Paul said “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any” (1Cor. 6:12). Paul affirms in this passage that even a thing right within itself becomes wrong when it reaches the point of addiction. In such situations we are not in control of ourselves.

  1. Gambling is Covetousness.

In gambling one has the desire to gain what is not rightfully his. He seeks to win at the expense of others. Such is covetousness which Paul says is idolatry in Col. 3:5. 

The same apostle further declared “For the love of money is the root of all evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:10.

  1. Gambling violates the principle of love and the golden rule. In gambling one beats another out of what he does not want to give. We are taught to love our neighbor (Mt. 22:39), and do unto others as we would want them to do to us (Mt. 7:12).
  1. Gambling violates the principle of stewardship.

We are obligated to God to be good stewards of the blessings he gives us. This is a solemn responsibility, and cannot be taken lightly. We must be diligent in handling what belongs to our master 1Cor. 4:2. “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”

In gambling the odds are against winning. In fact it is estimated that in the typical state lottery, the odds of picking the right numbers are one in 12 to 14 million. Not very good odds. Certainly not a good investment.

1Peter 4:10 “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

  1. Gambling violates the legitimate means of transfer of money or property.

There are three legitimate ways in which the transfer of money or goods takes place.

(a) Labor involves money earned and paid for effort or work that has been given.

(b) Exchange is where a commodity is exchanged for something of value. This could consist of money or other goods. Buying and selling involves exchange.

(c) A gift may be money or something of value that is given without any expectation of return. Gifts come in the form of an inheritance, prize, etc. Gambling does not involve a gift, exchange or labor, hence cannot qualify as a legitimate way to transfer money or property.

Gambling may be legal, but it is wrong. It creates untold misery and problems and in no way can be considered a boon to society.

  1. Gambling Breeds Other Sins

Jesus taught that we can know a tree by its fruits. Mt. 7:15-20

Many gamblers who never thought of committing a crime have turned to all types of criminal activity to support their addiction to gambling.

According to research by the Compulsive Gambling Center in Baltimore, at least two-thirds of compulsive gamblers engage in criminal activity to finance their addiction, including check forgery, tax

evasion, embezzlement, bookmaking, prostitution, selling drugs, and fencing stolen goods. (Theft by Consent by John R. Hill)

Suicide – The probability of attempting suicide is far greater among gamblers than the general population.  In the general population suicide has an index of 1.1 percent, but in Gamblers it is 13 percent.

The general crime rate is up in gambling areas. Las Vegas had the highest crime rate per capita in the nation in a recent year. In 1994 it had five times the violent crimes as it was able to solve. Atlantic City officials claim that two-thirds of all its crimes are gambling related. 

In Mississippi, bank robberies have increased fourfold among the river since 1992.  Tunica has reported a 500 percent increase in drunk driving.

With the knowledge of what gambling is and the principles that it violates, it is easy to see why it is wrong.

[This is an abbreviated transcription of a Let the Bible Speak broadcast by Ronny Wade].

 Recommended articles:

Introducing the Church of Christ – Ronny Wade

God’s Sevenfold Unity – Jerry Cutter

Repentance – J. W. McGarvey


The Ancient Faith website is a thematic collection of scholarly yet simple Bible essays and sermons, many of which were composed by Restoration preachers such as J.W. McGarvey, Moses Lard, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Campbell. These courageous men of faith through hours of Bible investigation studied themselves out of denominationalism, asking for “the old paths” (Jer. 6:16) and seeking to return to “the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). We hope you will join with these men in their fervent plea to restore “the ancient order,” “the ancient gospel” or, as it was sometimes called, “the ancient faith.”